Our trip to Venice

April 2004

page 2 day 2 (back to page 1)

First here's some history:

There are many marshes in the lagoon around Venice. As it turns out, some 1500 years ago, when the Huns were sacking and burning Europe and the Roman empire was crumbling a few fishermen took refuge on the outlying islands to protect themselves from the invaders. They also had another good idea: they formed a republic (that lasted over 1000 years) with an elected 'Doge' (or Duke as they were sometimes called elsewhere) and a governing body. Every individual was respected and had an important role to play on the island. Whether shipbuilder, glass-blower, craftsman or trader. One elected body oversaw the Doge to make sure he would not empower himself or enrich himself at the expense of the republic. A few were indeed executed. But never once did a despot come to power like in so many other city states or countries in that time period. As the city grew, mainly through shipping and trading, so did the need for a larger church and a Christian figure. Theory has it that two local seamen stole the body of Mark the evangelist in Alexandria and brought him back to Venice in the 9th century...hence St Mark's square and the basilica. And the winged lion. The government 'building' called the Doge's palace was constructed in the early years of the republic, next to the basilica, and then enhanced and extended over several centuries. Amazingly enough there never were any horse carriages or automobiles. Everything goes by way of water. City 'Busses' are boats, delivery 'trucks' are boats, garbage 'trucks' are boats. The main 'highway' is the "grand canal". While other European cities floundered from the 5th century to the 13th, Venice grew and prospered. Shipbuilding progressed to a stage of almost industrial production: 15000 skilled craftsmen produced a vessel per day in the peak period around the 16th century. The specialized 'rope' manufacturing facility was a hall 300 meters long and 20 meters wide. Venetian vessels (which belonged to the state) sailed to the near and far east for trade in spices and jewels. And many vessels were armed to protect and conquer. Some important navy battles aligned hundreds of Venetian fighting ships at one time. Architecture also progressed in leaps and bounds. Over one million wood pilings were sunk into the mud for the foundation of just one church. 12000 pilings were used to build the foundation of the stone Rialto bridge. Because of the use of pilings in the soft mud and the use of bricks (marble and other stones were used for decoration) ensured that buildings, churches and palaces withstood the effects of earthquakes and other wear and tear over many centuries.

We start off with a good breakfast. Note the architecture of the window next to the hotel.
It's a beautiful day (as predicted) and we go up the tower to take a bird's eye view of the city.
Here is the easterly view looking at the corner of the Doge palace and the two pillars welcoming sea-faring visitors for centuries. One pillar with the winged lion representing St Mark and Venice and the other of Teodor (the 'greek' patron before Mark was shipped to Venice in the 9th century).
This view shows the entrance of the Canal Grande and two of the many churches of Venice. The triangular building was the customs house. Much of Venice's wealth came from import and export duties.
Off we go on a boat tour. Here is a view of the Rialto bridge while on the Canal Grande.
Surpise... an ambulance boat comes roaring by under the Rialto bridge.
Another view of the many small canals which bring food, people and collect garbage!
We are at St Mark's square again. With good looking pidgeon ladies and girls. Note the beautiful St Mark basilica entrance. You can barely make out the four bronze horses above the arch. These were 'booty' taken back from Constantinople when that city was captured by the Venetians in the early part of their history. The true origine of the horses are still debated (Roman origin?) today.
In the afternoon we hop on a 'city-bus-boat' that takes us to Murano. A beautifully colored village a few miles from Venice proper.
It is famous for its knits and tapistry.
and masks like on Venice itself.
and intricate glasswork (in Venice again)
Another nice dinner with music...


click here for page 3 and day 3.... and the visit of the Doge Palace and St Mark basilica